Richard Rogers (born 1933) is a British architect noted for his modernist and functionalist designs, with a reputation for works ‘celebrating the components of the structure’ by way of his well-known creations such as the ‘Pompidou Centre’ in Paris, the ‘Lloyd's Building’ and the “Millennium Dome” both in London and the “European Court of Human Rights Building” in Strasbourg, France.
By the age of 29, Rogers had completed his studies at the Architectural Association in London and Yale University. Returning to London at the age of 30, he started a firm ‘Team 4’ in partnership with celebrated architect, Norman Foster, along with their wives—which lasted three years.
From the age of 37 to 44, he practiced with Renzo Piano; and that is when the highly-acclaimed ‘Pompidou Centre’ was commissioned. The Centre, a widely admired landmark of Paris that opened in 1977, established Rogers' trademark of embedding most of the building's services (water, heating and ventilation ducts, and stairs) on the exterior, leaving the internal spaces uncluttered and open for visitors to the Pompidou Centre’s art exhibitions. The exposed-steel structure design was considered as a showpiece of high-tech design, with a dramatic skeletal exterior clad with tube-encased elevators and brightly colored ductwork.
When he was 44, Rogers formed the Richard Rogers Partnership(RRP), and that is when they designed the spectacular ‘Lloyds Building’ at London, a highly polished mechanistic tower in which a rectangular core surrounds a central atrium; which in turn is surrounded by towers housing restrooms, elevators, and kitchens. This layout facilitates easy access for repairs or for making any future modernizations of the building’s service functions.
Another momentous work is Rogers’ design for the ‘Millennium Dome’ in Greenwich, UK. The building has a gigantic roofed structure that can host a variety of exhibition pavilions to accommodate an enormous world fair under one roof.
Rogers firm, RRP, has designed among other projects, two major airport projects —‘Terminal 5’ at London’s Heathrow Airport and the ‘New Area Terminal’ at Madrid Barajas Airport; as well as high-rise office projects in London, a new law court complex in Antwerp, the ‘National Assembly for Wales’ in Cardiff, and a hotel and conference centre in Barcelona. His enviable portfolio also includes the ‘Channel 4 Television Headquarters’ in London; ‘88 Wood Street,’ an office development in London; and the ‘Daimler Chrysler Building’ in Berlin. Rogers’ firm has been involved deeply in urban master-planning with major schemes in London, Lisbon, Berlin, New York and Seoul.
Richard Rogers has been bestowed with numerous prestigious awards and prizes. He is a ‘Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate,’ the recipient of the ‘RIBA Gold Medal’ and winner of the ‘Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Medal.’ He is also winner of the ‘Praemium Imperiale Prize for Architecture’, the ‘Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement,’ the ‘Tau Sigma Delta Gold Medal’ and the Royal Institute of British Architects’ ‘Stirling Prize.’ He was awarded the ‘Légion d’Honneur’ in 1986, knighted in 1991 and made a life peer in 1996; in 2008 he was made a ‘Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour.’
Rogers has authored numerous books, such as: A Place for all People; Architecture: A Modern View; A New London; Cities for a Small Planet; Towards an Urban Renaissance, Urban Task Force; Cities for a Small Country; Richard Rogers and Architects: From the House to the City; and Architecture: A Modern View.
In 1995, Rogers was the first architect to be invited to give the ‘BBC Reith Lectures’—a series titled, ‘Cities for a Small Planet,’ where he has been quoted as saying: ‘ Human life has always depended on the three variables of population, resources and environment. But today, we’re perhaps the first generation to face the simultaneous impact of expanding populations, depletion of resources, and erosion of the environment. All this is common knowledge, and yet, incredibly, industrial expansion carries on regardless… Historically, societies unable to solve their environmental crises have either migrated or become extinct. The vital difference today is that the scale of our crisis is no longer regional but global: it involves all of humanity and the entire planet.’
In 1998, Rogers was appointed by the Deputy Prime Minister of England to chair the UK Government’s ‘Urban Task Force on the State of our Cities.’ He was Chief Advisor on ‘Architecture and Urbanism’ to the Mayor of London
Rogers considers the work that his team delivered through the Urban Task Force to be among his most significant achievements. The initiative brought together a range of multi-disciplinary professionals who were concerned with the physical environment and their Recommendations covered a wide spectrum of urban, economic and social conditions. Reportedly, ‘it resulted in a rise from 50% to 80% of development taking place on redundant industrial – brownfield – land and an increase of average density by 30%.’
Rogers believes that cities are made out of people, not buildings, and that the life between buildings is what matters. ‘Cities are a stage where people perform and buildings are the sets that frame the performance. A place for all.’
Hemalatha is a Chennai-based architect practising and teaching architecture; and co-founder of SIDART Photography and two centers of Globalart.